It doesn’t matter if you’re a second-year teacher or a 20-year teacher. This back-to-school season, with all its new protocols and online learning mandates, makes everyone feel like it's the first year all over again.
The next few months (at the least) are going to be challenging for educators. It will be important to engage in self-care, but most likely teachers are going to need to go beyond that to maintain their mental health. Being distant from our colleagues and students, as well as trying to preserve cleanliness and follow new protocols, is going to be emotionally draining. So let’s talk about how you can take care of your mental health.
Does your benefits package include counseling services?
Don’t be afraid to inquire about the resources available to you as an employee. Some districts have an Employee Assistance Program, which offers many free resources as part of your benefits package. This can include counseling services. EAP counselors are trained for a broad range of concerns, from substance abuse to grief and stress. Your EAP also can work collaboratively with your supervisors to ensure that all aspects of your environment are working toward the mental health goals you have in place.
Even if your benefits don’t include services like counseling, consider looking into it if you have the means and feel you could use the extra emotional support. There is nothing wrong with speaking to a professional who can help you work through anxieties and fears.
Do you have a buddy?
My first year of teaching, my school paired me with a seasoned veteran who served as a mentor as I learned the ropes. Whether you start this year physically in school or not, having a buddy who is in the thick of things with you is more essential than ever. If your school doesn’t have an official buddy system, consider suggesting it to your leadership team or simply setting one up on your own. Having someone you know you can gripe to, bounce ideas off of, learn from and turn to for help during this time of high stress will be extremely comforting.
Are you aware of your own mindset?
Just as with any school year, some days you are going to feel like a rock star and other days, not so much. This year, these feelings might become exacerbated. Be aware of how you are feeling and identify what you need in order to feel like you aren’t simply surviving through each day. Be honest with yourself about what you can handle and what you can’t. Maybe you just really need a babysitter this week or need to have the groceries delivered because you don’t have the time or energy. Be real with yourself and know that you don’t have to have all the answers, and you can’t and should not try to do it all!
Mental health is only just becoming a topic people feel comfortable talking about, but now more than ever we need to check in with ourselves. With so much anxiety around us, mental health can start to quickly crumble. Remember: We can only take care of others when we take care of ourselves.
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